BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors paved the way, this week, for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft to come to town, just in time for the summer tourist season. Councilors unanimously approved a number of ordinance changes, Wednesday, including requiring taxis and TNC vehicles to be clearly identified as such, and mandating drivers undergo annual background checks.
Ben Nichols, co-owner of Bend Cab Company
, welcomes the competition. He tells KBND News, "I’ve kind of always expected Uber to possibly come here. And, I have no issue with them coming here as long as the playing field is even – as long as the same requirement for their drivers and our drivers and vehicles are the same." He notes the new ordinance includes guidelines his company already follows. "I’ve always thought competition is good; that’s what America’s all about. But, as far as Uber/Lyft, I don’t think we really have the population here for it. We already have – gosh – seven, eight, nine different cab companies and I guess Friday, Saturday nights on Wall and Bond is going to be pretty packed, if that’s the case."
Uber's John Isaacs thanked Bend City Councilors, for their work, saying Wednesday, "We support the changes that were made to the code – or to the ordinance. We feel they were responsive to the issues that you raised. Many of which we thought were worthy of consideration and we think it’s an improved ordinance from the one that came before you two weeks ago." The ordinance must pass one final vote, which is expected in the next couple weeks. It would take effect May first.
Nichols believes TNCs are setting their sights on Redmond. He says access to the airport is likely key to Uber's Central Oregon business plan. "They’ve put in a new gate for taxi and TNC providers so the airport can get paid for the entrance to the airport in order to pick up. Both cab companies and Uber/Lyft will also have to do the same. And, I know the city has been working with is and figuring out how they’re going to do it and I think we’re about there." Redmond City Councilors are scheduled to take up the issue Tuesday. They’re expected to make similar ordinance changes to align with Bend’s rules. Redmond city officials say it would also take effect about the same time as in Bend.